In today's post, I want to talk about how to protect your online information.
It seems like there is a new security breach that gives thieves access to our personal information almost every week.
I've written about how to freeze your credit bureau accounts.
But what else can we do?
Are there ways to keep identity thieves from getting our personal information?
Where to Start
First, get set up with a password manager programPassword manager services are online programs that set up a secure vault to store all passwords.
There are free and paid versions of these services. Free versions usually cover one device (laptop, desktop, iPad, etc.). The paid versions often cover all devices.
When you set up your account, you will create a master password that logs you into your account. Most providers help you create a secure password up front.
Let me tell you how they work.
When you sign up for an account, the program will analyze all of the passwords stored on your computer.
The system then should generate a list of sites and passwords.that list includes a password strength rating and recommendations for which ones need changing.
The exercise was an eye-opening experience for me. I had zero strong passwords.
Embarrassingly, most of my passwords were slight variations of the same core.
That's a big no-no! Those are easier to hack.
LastPass.com is the service I use.
Their system can update each site with a weak password with a new, and much stronger one. I have LastPass generate my passwords to be sure they meet the test.
You can also choose to enter your own manually.
Of course, LastPass determined I'm not very good at that.
Passwords get stored in the LastPass vault for future use. You can choose the number of characters you want in your passwords, whether to use capital and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols.
Once you change and store passwords, you can get a plugin to put into whatever browser you use to access your websites.
Hackers place software on computers that pick up passwords when you type them in. Password programs prefill usernames and passwords, so you don't have to type anything.
Using this feature takes away one option hackers use.
When I go to a new website to create an online account, I use LastPass.com to generate my passwords.
It automatically stores the new website login and password in my vault. The next time I go to that website, a number appears on the plugin in my browser
The number lets me know there is a website stored in my vault with a username and password. Depending on the site, the login information may already be auto-filled into the login box.
The password appears as a series of black dots. It is never visible.
I realize all of this sounds complicated, but they make it pretty easy. And when it comes to your online security, you are the only one that can protect yourself.
It's worth the effort.
Three Services to ConsiderMost, if not all of these password managers allow you to sign up for a free trial.
Check them out and you will find one you like.
Here is a Consumer Reports article that reviews password managers.
Here is the second thing to do to help protect yourself. Set up two-factor or multi-factor authentication.
Multi-factor authentication requires more than one security check to make sure you are who you say you are before logging into your accounts.
You can choose to have a verification code sent via text or email. Enter that verification code you into an authorization box on the site.
Why is this important?
Even if a hacker could steal your login information, including password, they would be unable to get into your account without your authorization code.
Though nothing is foolproof, it's about as good as it gets. I use my cell phone rather than an email.
Hacking email is more accessible than texts. A cell phone is in my hand. These authentication codes are only good for a few minutes, adding another layer of protection.
I have two-factor authorization set up for all my websites that carry personal or client information, including my password manager.
Cybercrime is a part of our reality in the internet age. It's up to each of us to protect our information.
A computer tech guy once told me that for every person trying to protect your security, there are hundreds of others trying to find ways to undo what they're doing.
That's a sobering thought, isn't it?
As I mentioned earlier, nothing you do is foolproof. Using a password manager adds another layer that can help.
Check your credit reports regularly.
Services like Credit Sesame are free. Click my affiliate link below to sign up for this free service.
Remember, Hackers accessed an estimated 123 million records from Equifax, one of the top three major credit reporting companies.
Be vigilant and take these simple steps to help protect your information.
Now it's your turn. Do you currently use a password manager? What steps have you taken to protect your online information? Let me know in the comments below.
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